29 JULY 1989, Page 41

Low life

Out, legs before wicket

Jeffrey Bernard

It would be good if as many of you readers as possible could come along to the Oval on Saturday, 29 July, to watch the cricket match between The Spectator and the Coach and Horses. There is a buffet and an all-day bar and the entrance money is £10. County and Test Match grounds don't come cheap and even the players are paying to play. Team news at the moment — Monday — is very hazy. I am told Taki is playing. If he turns up, that is. His unpunctuality is appalling and I suspect he may be Greco- Irish. They tell me that Dominic Lawson is a good bowler and I hope he is because in Fred Ingrams the Coach and Horses has a pretty good quickie. It looks to be the Young Fogies v. the Scoundrels. My loyal- ties are not divided. I want to see The Spectator give the pub a drubbing. What

saddens me is that I cannot play because of my lousy health. I love cricket and miss playing it tremendously. I have volun- teered to umpire but am seriously recon- sidering that since it occurs to me that I might not be able to stand for four or five hours (the legs have gone).

With luck Norman should still be on holiday in Sardinia, where it is hoped that he and his little woman will be kidnapped. Who on earth would pay the ransom? He used to umpire for Private Eye and he doesn't know a bat from a ball. He even thinks that Test Matches are played at Wembley Stadium.

So do come along if you can. It should be fun and there is nothing wrong with some lunch and a drink on a summer's day. It would be interesting to meet some Specta- tor readers too. Oh, how I wish I could still turn the arm over. I lay in bed this morning reminiscing about past matches and there was one match about 25 years ago that still makes me glow to remember. I was playing for the art critic, David Sylvester, and he took me off after six overs saying that I was spoiling the game by bowling too well and that he wanted the match to last until 7 p.m. — opening time in those days. Happy days. You can't blame me for relishing that occasion. And to think that I probably can't even umpire now.

Speaking of which, I took the skinny legs and the rest of the body to a doctor in private practice last week. I have never done that before but I am sick of run-of- the-mill GPs who can only write out prescriptions and make guesses at diagno- sis. The man I saw is an expert diagnosti- cian. I spent no less than an entire hour with him and he has only half-finished assessing the case. What surprised me a little was that he more or less shrugged at my alcohol intake but then stressed that my 50 cigarettes a day are killing me. Now he wants me to have an expensive screening which takes all day. But how to stop smoking? It is as addictive as wanting to stay alive. I have only managed it on the two occasions I had pneumonia.

The other occasions on which I have not smoked, come to think of it, are when I have been nicked. When the police bang you up in a cell they take away your matches but leave you with your cigarettes. This is sup- posed to upset you. It doesn't. It is simply irri- tating. They failed to upset me one Sunday in Newbury nick, though, where I had been taken for not paying my rates. They served me a beautiful lunch of coq au yin and when I asked the screw why it was so good he told me the canteen staff had gone on strike and they had had to fetch it from the town's best hotel. The taxpayers paid and thank you very much.

Soon I shall be buying a few meals for transgressors. I have had the warrant and now I am expecting the bailiffs hourly with the summons for £21,000. Never mind, the cricket match will relieve the anxiety for a spell.